BIRMINGHAM, Alabama – As cars came to a stop in the pits at the end of the race Sunday, Alexander Rossi pulled alongside Josef Newgarden, who had bumped his way past Rossi three laps earlier to take fourth place.
Instead of drama, Rossi extended a hand of congratulations. Newgarden apologized, and the two chatted amiably about the move, which capped Newgarden’s impressive run from 16th to fourth in the Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama presented by AmFirst.
“I ran him harder than I would’ve liked to,” Newgarden said of the pass. “To be fair, he was very nice. He did a really good job making it work. Hats off to him for making it clean.”
On Lap 87 of the 90-lap race at Barber Motorsports Park, Newgarden was running fifth behind Rossi. As they approached Turn 5, a sharp left-hander, Rossi gave Newgarden the inside line. Newgarden locked up the right front of the No. 2 Fitzgerald USA Team Penske Chevrolet, pushing him into Rossi’s No. 27 NAPA AUTO PARTS Honda and into fourth place.
After the Andretti Autosport driver offered the handshake and a smile, Newgarden joked about the pass.
“Honestly, it’s kind of Rossi’s style,” Newgarden said. “Rossi is normally doing that to people, so I think that’s why he was fine with it. He’s done it to people many times. It’s not my style. I mean, I’ll push people out, but it was a little more than I would’ve wanted. It was just because he went so deep into the corner. Sometimes it happens. You can rub pretty good in these Indy cars.”
Like Newgarden, Rossi improved from his start, finishing fifth after qualifying eighth. He praised Newgarden for the late-race surge.
“He was just quicker (in the final stint),” Rossi said. “He did a good job. … It was a good job by the 27 NAPA Andretti Honda boys. We’ll take a top-five. We’re still looking for a podium, but we’re trying.”
The gain of 12 positions kept Newgarden atop the NTT IndyCar Series driver standings heading this week to the Acura Grand Prix of Long Beach. He leads Scott Dixon, who finished second Sunday, by 27 points.
“We had to get creative here; that’s about all we could do,” said Newgarden, who has won three times at Barber, including in 2017 and ’18 at the 17-turn, 2.3-mile road course. “If we wanted to finish higher, we needed to start higher. You’ve got to start in the top five to win here. We did win from seventh here in 2017, but without that caution today, we would’ve finished eighth. We needed that caution. Top-five was about all we could hope for.’
The Acura Grand Prix of Long Beach, the fourth of 17 races on the 2019 NTT IndyCar Series schedule, airs live at 4 p.m. Sunday on NBCSN and the Advance Auto Parts INDYCAR Radio Network.